How do I edit a TTF/OTF file?

alk27's picture

I have a font that does not come in bold - for designs I just used a stroke to make it bolder. Is it possible to edit the file and re-save it with a stroke? If, so what is the easiest way of doing this?

hrant's picture

1) The font's EULA (licensing agreement) needs to allow you to do that. Although personally I encourage people to ignore such "no-mod" clauses, as long as: they make dead sure the resultant font doesn't leave their sight; if it does leak they don't shy away from facing the consequences.
2) You can make darker (or lighter) versions with a font editor, but: font editors (at least good ones) are not cheap; simply adding a stroke rarely results in something acceptable; and font editors are complex animals and there's a potential for a first-timer to waste a lot of time before getting it all working right.


alk27's picture

The EULA does allow me to do that. So what would you suggest?

Joshua Langman's picture

Adding a stroke won't give you a proper bold, but if that's all you want to do, I would do it in your typesetting program. If you frequently need a bold weight, maybe you need to choose a different font or commission a new weight. What font is it?

hrant's picture

If you have a budget you could out-source the work to a type designer. I just emailed you (through your profile*) but there are many others on Typophile that could probably do it better and/or faster than me.

* My email: hpapazian at gmail dot com


charles ellertson's picture

If you are a frequent user of type, you might as well bite the bullet and get a font editing program. The learning curve is not shallow, you won't learn to use it in 10 hours or 10 days -- at least, for many things. Some, of course, are dead simple.

But the state of type today is such that a professional user simply cannot leave things up to the font publishers. They have to aim at too many different markets, and the inevitable compromises will, at some point, drive you to distraction.

Users of type have been significantly modifying type since the days of photocomp -- we use to make up needed characters, or even whole fonts, for the Linotype V-I-P machine. The digital/photocomp machines, such as the Linotype 202 and 505 frustrated many, but then PostScript came along, and again, type was available for tailoring by the user.

Now, licensing restrictions are rearing their head, but it is easy enough to use fonts that permit the end user to modify for their own purposes, just no reselling. If a font publisher doesn't permit this, avoid their products. There are 1,000s of fonts out there.

Hiring such work out is rarely successful for an end user. There is the time element, the cost, and the fact you have to describe *exactly* what you want, when (1) you don't know *exactly* what you want, and (2) you'll think of something else tomorrow...and the next day. I have fonts we've owned since the early 1990s that I'm still modifying. Examples are endless, just like the need.

printguru's picture

To answer the OPs question, there are a lot of great apps for doing so. I personally prefer Glyphs for its cleanliness and speed

hrant's picture

Although I fully agree with Charles that learning type design can be rewarding on many levels, it remains that -like anything else- it's only cost-effective if you need that skill often enough.* Most people's custom type needs are modest and infrequent, so it's patently false that outsourcing type design work is rarely a good idea.

* And remember, you have to keep up with font technology...


charles ellertson's picture

I'm not recommending learning type design. I'm recommending learning the skills to tailor type to your needs as a user. How much anyone needs to rely on font editing tools depends in part on how much type they deal with.

If your business is helping the great American Retail Effort in getting consumers to part with their dollars, the amount of type you set, quantitatively, is quite small. While great care might be needed with what you do set, handwork is always required, so a little more handwork is no big deal. On the other hand, there are always things that just cannot be done by hand. They will change from project to project, and so, not the proper purveyance of a type designer.

If your business is helping the American Consumer to avoid boredom (books, magazines, etc.) the amount of type you set, quantitatively, is quite large. In that case, automaton -- programmatic improvements -- are useful. If the program takes care of a detail, you're never tempted to skip it because it takes too much time or work. But again, these tend to vary some, and again, they are not a "materials" issue.

With OpenType, font editing programs let you modify the letterforms, their spacing, and certain automation that may or may not also be available in a layout program.

None of this has anything to do with type design, except, perhaps, in the minds of a few people who seem to feel that type design, by itself, is what creates the timeless classics of literature, best sellers, cash-cow advertising, etc.

hrant's picture

Mere terminology does not affect the inadvisability of Ashley spending months to years learning how to do something that she might need to do once a year at most (and I have to wonder what a person's agenda is in recommending such inefficiency). But anyway I'll humor you:

Type design isn't just making letterforms from scratch. And making a darker weight of an existing font (at least the right way, not simply by adding an outline) very much is type design. You should know that Matthew Carter (whom I mention because he's your favorite type designer) is in fact known to take an uncharacteristically high measure of pride in making good weight variations*; you can be sure he never applies an outline. Now, do many good type designers use automation tricks as a starting point? Absolutely. Do virtually all of those then spend many hours adjusting the results by hand? Absolutely.

* See the fifth paragraph here:

Anybody who believes that a typeface by itself makes a work great is deluded. Anybody who believes that details in type are irrelevant in making a work great is deluded. And any typesetter who doesn't realize that his job will be replaced with automation way before type design is automated is deluded.


charles ellertson's picture

Mere terminology does not affect the inadvisability of Ashley spending months to years learning how to do something that she might need to do once a year at most

Emphasis added.

Taken most charitably, this is misleading. Taken generally, it is a falsehood.

Part of the problems may be that hhp does not seem to use type, so that all the little things that come up don't occur to him. Quick example from last week: Take arithmetic operators -- plus, minus, equals, multiply, divide. Even the most complete fonts have them only for lining and old style numbers. They are spaced to use as arithmetic operators. But English, and I'd assume other languages, use these symbols in other constructions -- a B+ student, a 6 x 9 trim. They are used in linguistics and phonetics as well. Sometimes just the spacing needs adjustment, sometimes the character itself. Usually 5 minutes work in a font editing program.

Take a character needing an accent. Really quick in a font editing program. Yes, you can probably do it in the layout program, but if there are more than a couple, or if they occur more than a couple times in the text, it is a real nuisance -- remember the problem with macrons in the old PostScript days?

Take setting some African languages, where you need U+0181 and U+018A. If you can't draw -- and I can't -- you can still find that little piece to graft on to the B or D of the needed font. 15 minutes work.

On and on and on. There is a reason users of type have been modifying it since the middle of the 15th century. Little things add up. In Europe, Gutenberg was probably the first to see that a saw worked better than a chisel. Probably took him, oh, one or two tries -- total time, 10 minutes.

OK, but you were asking about embolding. Do you think a font editing program's "bold" routine will do a worse job than the stroking routine in InDesign? So you start there, "just as good." Improving on that is all a plus, & you'll get that from day one. You'll get both better and quicker over time, but from day one, you're already ahead of what you have now. The same with all the examples above, and all the things that pop up when setting type.

And if it really takes so long, you can't afford hhp. Believe his hourly rate is $75. What does that work out to, in months? But of course, it won't take him months. How long would it take him? If it takes him 5 hours, that's $375, right. Plus a little for handling? And once for the roman, once for the italic ? -- it's all hours, and starting to add up. How about the next font, or the next little operation you need?

So the first time, it takes you 10 times as long to get near his quality, a full week. But you don't have that time, so you settle for less quality, which is still better than ID stroking. It won't take you years to reach his -- or Matthew Carter's -- level of quality, unless you're talking about all levels of type founding. At which point, you're a type designer, not a user.

If you're not a user, if you just spec things for others to set, you don't need the tool -- unless, of course, you want an exact spec, and have to play around with values to satisfy yourself. But if you are a type user, and if you expect to be among the better ones, font editing is something you just cannot ignore, nor pass on to anyone else.

hrant's picture

Don't mistake high regard for quality for dishonesty. Some people spend -what you consider to be- an inadvisable amount of time doing something the right way. And it does take them years to get there.

I guess there's a good reason you refuse to do type design work for third parties: you don't want to be embarrassed.

It won't take you years to reach his -- or Matthew Carter's -- level of quality

We'll remember you said that.


charles ellertson's picture

HHP: If you're going to claim I don't do good work, show examples, please.

Meanwhile the rest of the world can speculate about a new film:

The Cultured World (After the Time of Drawing in the Sand with a Stick)



With a supporting cast of unimportant minions, including authors, editors, graphic designers, typesetters, printers, readers, and a few others.

hrant's picture

show examples, please.

How convenient that the EULA of any font that's good enough to reveal the -lack of- quality of a modification does not allow you to send me a copy... But you can still do it yourself: start with the Regular of a font you admire, apply your cherished caveman-style dipped-in-chocolate auto-bold, then overlay that with the Bold made by a type designer who is not embarrassed to show his work, and you might start getting an idea how little value your hack-jobs contain beyond allowing you to milk your clients with the absolute minimum of effort.

And you can be sure that, like me, the rest of the type design world also does not appreciate you turning a chip (more like a boulder) on your shoulder* into an excuse to repeatedly attack the whole craft (using me as the demon of course) on a forum that exists because of type designers no less.

* I've heard of resentful failed artists, but not resentful failed type designers...


BTW Charles, what's your relation to Donald Dickson at Texas A&M?


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